Scouts won’t stop camping in favour of computer games

Scouts won’t stop camping in favour of computer games

Sometimes newspapers really do publish things which are just complete and utter rubbish. Just read this Telegraph article, which claims that Scouts are abandoning traditional scouting activities such as camping in favour of video games. As if!

The “data” the journalist is basing this on? The numbers of badges awarded:

Figures for the numbers of badges awarded to Scouts show that those for basic camping skills are among the least popular.

Instead, a growing number are being awarded a new “nights away” badge, which recognises not just nights spent under canvas but also stays at hostels and activity centres…

Sales figures from the Scout Association suggest that last year, among the least popular activity badges for 10-to-14-year-olds was the “quartermaster” badge, with only 1,180 purchased…

Another badge, for “campsite service”, had even fewer takers, with only 848 sold. It teaches scouts how to ensure campsites have good drainage and clear ditches.

By contrast, some of the most popular badges were: chef (10,187 sold), fire safety (11,572) and entertainer (11,541) – the popularity of which has been put down to television shows like The X Factor.

Other badges growing in popularity include those for studying religions, art, public relations and circus skills.

If the journalist actyally knew anything about Scouting, he would know that nights away badges are awarded for each night away spent by a young person, right from when they join as a six year-old Beaver right up until they leave Explorers at 18, in increments right up to 200. So a lot are awarded, as every young person involved in Scouting will earn quite a number over their time in the movement.

The campers badge, however, can only be awarded once to a Scout, and just look at the requirements:

1. Camp under canvas as a Scout for at least 15 nights.

2. Lead a group of Scouts in the pitching, striking and packing of a four to six person tent.

3. Know what to look for when choosing a campsite and in deciding the best position to pitch tents.

4. Show an understanding of the reasons for hygiene and the importance of being safe and tidy in camp.

5. Demonstrate how to store food hygienically at camp.

6. Construct two useful camp gadgets such as a camp larder, altar fire, flagpole, camp gate etc.

7. Prepare and cook either a full hot breakfast or a main meal for 2 to 6 people.

That’s more than just spending a couple of nights sleeping in a tent!

Also, nights away badges are cross-sectional. There are three other sections in Scouting beyond the Scout section itself, and together add up to more than twice the length of time. The badges that they are being compared with are Scout section-specific, so this journalist is very much comparing apples and pears (and it’s no surprise that Quartermaster and Campsite Service badges are rare – they’re very hard and require the Scout themselves to really want to do it).

I have just returned from a weekend camping with some of my Scouts myself, where they took part in the Hertfordshire Scouts Green Beret competition, which included orienteering, fire lighting, pioneering, and much more. And this was the largest this competition had ever been this year – and potentially the largest Scouting competition in the country.

The mere suggestion that Scouting could even consider abandoning camping in favour of computer games is offensive to the thousands of us who spend hours volunteering as Leaders in the Scout Movement.

For indeed, that is what it is a movement, always moving forwards and developing. Baden-Powell and Scouting for Boys are the core of Scouting still, but we must always develop and remain relevant to the young people we provide Scouting for. And if Scouting was not developing, it would not be following Baden-Powell’s instructions:

It is a movement, because it moves forward. As soon as it stops moving, it becomes an Organisation, and is no longer Scouting.

So we keep on moving forwards. Scouting will retain its core identity, and will never stop camping – but we will also never stop moving.

Well said Chris. I’m sure that when I was a Scout in the 1980’s, I’m sure that neither myself nor any of my contemporaries considered doing the Quartermaster badge as it was so hard to do even then!

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